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UPDATE: Gee, thanks Oprah….

November 2, 2006

First off, no, I do not have an Oprah crush.

But the fallout from Oprah’s debit-card-for-charity-and-no-you-don’t-get-a-car giveaway is starting to emerge on the Internet.

Oprah gives cards!The Washington Post reports that some of the audience members were visibly upset after Oprah sprung the conditions of the debit card giveaway upon them, and then they were even more distressed when they found out they don’t even get to keep the Sony-sponsored Handycams they were given to document their charity giving.

Julia Ward of TV Squad, one of the better blogs on entertainment, has pegged the problem with this giveaway:

As you might imagine, the audience went nuts until Oprah dropped the bombshell. That $1,000 would go to someone other than themselves. That’s the kind of gift that makes rich people feel good about themselves, and the rest of us feel sorta horrible. Sure, we want to give money to charity to. We’d like the good feeling that comes with tithing and personal philanthropy. We’d also like the good feeling that comes with paying the phone bill on time.
See, it’s not the gift of charity that’s such a bummer. It’s the way she taunted the audience. First, give everyone a $1,000. Then, tell them they have to give it away. She didn’t give anyone the joy of philanthropy. She gave them guilt. The reported wave of disappointment that washed over the audience after the “charity” announcement is the kind of thing that inevitably leads to a late night bout of angst over what a greedy, horrible person you must be for not wanting to part ways with your shiny, new $1,000 so soon.

Granted, for those who complete this task (The Post reports they have one week to do so) and document it, I’m sure there’s something at the end of the rainbow, or at least at the end of the “very special” Oprah episode that plays all the tapes, for these lucky few.

Maybe at least a car, an iPod, a diamond watch, and a subscription to O Magazine?

Also, doesn’t this debit card thing sound familiar? I remember that the U.S. Government was criticized for giving debit cards to Hurricane Katrina victims, who then went and blew the money on strip clubs and luxury items in some cases.

I’m sure Team Oprah had an army of release forms for these folks to sign post-show, to make sure no negatives come from this charity giveaway.

But if one of these Oprah devotees slips up and spends the money in a controversial way — say, a donation to a political org or a questionable charity — I can’t wait to see the press backlash. It will make O’s James Frey scandal look like a pittance.


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